Success is a subjective term. It can have many meanings, depending on what you consider “successful”. When it comes to baseball, you can use different milestones to mark success. One milestone I’ve never liked is the idea that the only successful team is the one that wins the World Series.
The goal for every team is to win the World Series, and only one team can win each year. But other teams can have a successful season without winning it all. And I think the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates are one of those teams.
I have zero interest in recapping the final game of the year. The Pirates lost 6-1, and they were eliminated in Game 5 of the NLDS. Instead, let’s focus on that last part.
The Pirates were eliminated from the playoffs. The playoffs. And it wasn’t the Wild Card, because they won that in one of the best Pirates games arguably since 1979. They were eliminated in the NLDS, and it took five games. They were eliminated by one of the best pitchers in the league, and the team with the best record. And this series was close. The 6-1 score in the end doesn’t show that, but the Pirates weren’t far off from being a team that could beat the Cardinals and advance.
Prior to the season, a lot of people were questioning whether the Pirates would even have a winning season. Very few were predicting playoffs, and they would have probably been laughed at. If you would have told any Pirates fan that the team would win 94 games, beat the Reds in the Wild Card game at PNC Park, and get eliminated in Game 5 of the NLDS by Adam Wainwright, they would have taken it.
The bad part about not winning the World Series is that a successful season ends on a bad note. So rather than focus on that loss, let’s focus on more of what made this season amazing.
**The Pirates won 94 games.
**They won the Wild Card game.
**They made it to Game 5 of the NLDS.
**During the entire season, the Pirates never lost more than four games in a row. The big losing streak was always a killer for previous teams, but this team managed to bounce back each time.
**Andrew McCutchen had another MVP-like season, and will probably win the NL MVP award.
**Pedro Alvarez topped 30 home runs for the second year in a row.
**The Pirates arguably had the best free agent pitcher (Francisco Liriano) and best free agent position player (Russell Martin).
**The team got a look at their future ace, Gerrit Cole, and watched him start to turn into an ace at the end of the season.
**The losing streak ended.
**Starling Marte had a strong first full season in the pros. He had a 4.6 WAR. By comparison, Andrew McCutchen had a 3.5 WAR in his first full season.
**The Pirates used 12 starting pitchers. Eight of those pitchers had an ERA of 3.59 or better. Two of the remaining pitchers only made one start.
**The usage of defensive shifts showed the ability to think outside the box, and successfully execute a plan that could give the team an edge over the competition.
**All of the memorable games or series throughout the year (with my personal favorite being the series against the Cardinals where they took four out of five around the trade deadline).
**The best part of all? We can talk about a lot of great things that happened this year, and not even get to players in the minors who had zero impact on the MLB squad. And it’s not like there weren’t any good stories in the minors. There were a lot of great stories. But for once those aren’t the only stories.
**OK, maybe tied for best of all: the minor league system is good, this team will mostly return next year, and should see some internal improvements from the minors. Combine that with money to spend over the off-season, and there’s no reason why next year shouldn’t also be a success. But that’s another article.
I probably missed some great moments from the 2013 season. Or perhaps there’s a specific game or series that you want to highlight. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.